The study, called "The Sound of Silence: The Unprecedented Decline in Music Education in California Public Schools," and produced by the Music for All Foundation using data from the California Department of Education, showed that 50 percent fewer students enrolled in music programs in 2003-04 than in 1999-2000.
The numbers represent a loss of a half-million students, a higher percentage than in any other subject, at a time when the total California public school student population increased 5.8 percent.
In addition, the number of music teachers declined by 1,057, or 26.7 percent.
Although the authors of the study seem hesitant to commit to reasons for such a steep decline, they name, with reservations, two potential causes: California's budget crisis, and the emphasis created by the No Child Left Behind Act on reading and math scores, which tends to channel school resources toward those programs.
U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige, who tendered his resignation last week, does not want the education initiative blamed for the drop in music education. He recently reminded school superintendents that "NCLB included the arts as a core academic subject because of their importance to a child's education."